Diwali tea

In October, I hosted my 2nd tea for the Victorian Tea Society.  I wanted to host a tea to pay homage to one of the biggest tea drinking countries in the world: India.  I am also a big fan of Indian cuisine (especially South Indian cuisine), Bollywood, and Indian culture and religions.  I thought it would be nice to introduce the ladies to something different.
diwali invitation


Diya on US postage stamp

Side note (11/18/16): The USPS just issued a postage stamp celebrating Diwali!  These would have added the perfect touch to my invitations!

Since I was hosting the fall tea, it was the perfect timing for Diwali.  Diwali is India’s biggest holiday, equal in importance to Christmas in the West and Chinese New Year in the far East.  Celebrated over 5 days, it commemorates the Indian new year and is celebrated by Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs alike.  The word, “Diwali,” means “rows of lights.”  Millions of clay lanterns called diya are lit all over India to signal the Festival of Lights, one of the most festive days of the holiday.  For my Diwali tea, I especially wanted to highlight the Festival of Lights and its theme of triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.

DSC04061 (Small)It is also said that Diwali is a celebration of our inner light and a time to cultivate spiritual wealth.

DSC04122 (Small)In addition to lights, it is also traditional to create rangoli designs on the floor of living rooms, on doors, or just outside the front entrance for good luck and to repel evil spirits.  A type of folk art, rangoli designs are traditionally created using rice, flower petals, sand, or flour.

I designed a peacock rangoli to welcome the VTS ladies.  I took a few liberties with the rangoli and used construction paper instead of traditional organic materials.  Also, instead of traditional diya which burn oil, I used tea lights that burned for 4 hours.  Since I planned my tea for a 4-hour sitting, I knew exactly when it was time to wrap up the Tea when the candles started burning low. 😉  As we all know, tea-loving souls like us can really go on and on and not notice the time.  Such is the delight of afternoon tea!

DSC04072 (Small)I had a lot of fun creating the menu. There were so many dishes I wanted to serve but I was mindful in choosing recipes that didn’t require too many ingredients since we all share the cooking.  I have to remember that my spice and herbs collection is excessive and that not everyone is a spice/herb junkie like me. 🙂

diwali menuI knew that my color theme would be red and gold because my dishes are red. 🙂

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See the peacock shaped napkins in the water flute glasses?

I made origami lotus flowers for the place names which were held up by a stick of cinnamon. The lotus is a popular symbol in many cultures including Indian culture.  It is also a symbol of enlightenment in Buddhist tradition so I thought it was a good choice for ringing in the new year.

DSC04125 (Small) (2)I decorated the dining area and table with many tea lights, some real, some flameless.

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Paper quilled candle holders (mock diya)

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Table setting

First course:

Sambhar by Lady Henni

Sambhar with cumin scented khakhra by Lady Henni

Lady MH's chaat salad and Lady Henni's samosa

Lady MH’s chana chaat salad and Lady Henni’s samosa

Chana chaat salad
(adapted from various recipes by Lady MH)

1 cup dried chickpeas (3 cups cooked or 2 14 oz cans)
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon chat masala (optional, see recipe below or use store bought)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup sliced cucumbers
6 cups mixed salad greens
Balsamic vinaigrette

Toss chickpeas with cumin seeds, cayenne, chat masala, sea salt and parsley/cilantro. Arrange cucumbers, tomatoes, and greens on a plate. Add chickpeas to top of salad and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Chaat masala
(from Lisa’s Kitchen, yields 1/4 c.)

1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/4 tsp. asafoetida
1 1/2 tsp. garam masala
1 1/2 tsp. amchoor (dried mango) powder
1 1/2 tsp. black salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/8 tsp. ground ginger

Dry roast the cumin and fennel seeds in a small frying pan over low heat for about 5 minutes or until the cumin seeds darken a few shades. Toss in the asafoetida and stir in for a few moments. Remove from heat and grind in an electric coffee grinder until powdered. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to mix.  Store in an airtight jar away from heat and light for up to 2 months.

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Cucumber and carrot sandwiches and open faced cucumber sandwiches with mint and cilantro chutney cream cheese

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Curried chicken salad croissant sandwiches with jewel picks!

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Lady T.'s curried chicken salad croissant, Lady B.'s mint chutney and cucumber, and carrot and cucumber sandwiches

Lady T.’s curried chicken salad croissant, Lady B.’s mint chutney and cucumber, and carrot and cucumber sandwiches

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Lady K.’s shrikhand fruit custard (chopped mangoes, pomegranate seeds, pistachio nuts, and mint)

Kesar Dry Fruit Shrikhand
(adapted from iDiva.com)

2 ½ cups plain yogurt (non-fat Greek yogurt OK)
1 tbsp warm milk or water
¼ tsp saffron threads
¼ tsp cardamom powder
¼ – ½ cup confectioner’s sugar (to taste)
2 tbsp raw pistachio nuts, skinned and chopped

Put yogurt in cheesecloth and hang it up for 4 to 5 hours to drain the whey.  Soak saffron in milk or water for 30 minutes.  Whisk the drained yogurt, sugar, saffron milk, and cardamom together till the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Chill and serve with nuts and fresh chopped fruit.

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Lady J.’s ginger scones

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Coconut burfi and raw cashew chocolate chip cookie dough bites

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Tea favors: Homemade masala chai in an apothecary jar

As a fun activity, I painted henna designs for some of the ladies.

henna2DSC04056 (Small) (2)DSC04098 (Small)henna3I really enjoyed hosting my 2nd VTS tea and already have ideas for my next tea!

During this auspicious festival of lights, may the glow of joy, prosperity, and happiness illuminate your life and and your home.  Wishing you a Happy Diwali!  Namaste.

Om Asato Ma Sad Gamaya
Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityor Ma Amritam Gamaya
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

Lead us from untruth to truth
From darkness to light
From death to immortality
Om Peace Peace Peace

–Diwali prayer


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